On Friday night I attended the annual anniversary party at the Aleluya school where I visited earlier this week. My friend Marcos is a teacher there and also works at the university (this type of arrangement is very common) and he invited me to come along. This is a big deal- all the students have the day off to prepare and their families all come and watch. I was running a shade late and forgot my camera, which is arguably the biggest mistake I've made so far during my time here. So I don't have pictures of my own, but I'm hoping to post some shortly from other folks.
Let me begin by saying that this school isn't a typical Argentine school. It's a private religious prep school for girls, which means that the students are very motivated. That being said, I was blown away by last night's events. Every year the anniversary celebration has a different theme, one which usually incorporates the Virgin Mary in one way or another. This year's theme was her appearance in different Latin American countries. The presentation started off with a narrative and then transitioned into a dance where all of the senior girls formed different groups and performed a traditional dance for their chosen country. I can't dance at all, so the time and effort it took to learn something as intricate as these moves is even more impressive.
After the dances were over the crowd moved inside the gym. All of the students had worked to decorate the gym- some on the gym itself, but mostly on the long tables set up around the gym. Each table was decorated for one of the countries- complete with flags, typical food, small shrines, you name it. They were gorgeous.
What impressed me the most wasn't that these girls were driven to do something way above and beyond a typical celebration, but more that it was all about different countries and cultures and that they had really embraced this role. Some of the girls asked me if we had anything similar to this back in the US. I thought about it- we have small units on different cultures that are taught in foreign language classes, but nothing as comprehensive as this where the whole school is involved at once. I tried to think of situations where the entire school is involved in a group effort, and the closest I could come was pep rally during homecoming week. It's not a great fit: though they have certain things in common, the focus of the pep rally isn't on celebrating other cultures- it's more a celebration of school spirit combined with lots of noise. Not that this party was quiet...
After dinner and the presentation of awards to deserving teachers (congrats Marcos, Daniel, and others!) and also to the groups who had done the best job decorating their tables, the real fiesta started. The DJ cranked the music and it turned into a dance party complete with blinding strobe lights and the Argentine equivalent of silly string- a can of compressed air that shot tiny bits of confetti into the air. The students dragged their teachers into the fray (myself included- they wouldn't take no for an answer). It was surreal.
After leaving the party in the middle of a downpour, Marcos took me to a weekly gathering of his friends where they eat carne asada and play cards. The asada was spectacular and everyone was really welcoming. I enjoyed talking with folks from outside the university and learning more about their city. All in all, it was a great night. I hope to be able to edit this post and add some pictures- so check back soon.